Over the last couple of weeks, events here in Israel have been spinning out of control. Following the brutal murders of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Muhammad Abu Khdeir, there were violent protests in Jewish and Arab communities, as well as horrific incitement and racist abuse across the social networks. As if that wasn't bad enough, following Hamas's rocket attacks on Israel, war has now broken out. I was in the bomb shelter in my home near Jerusalem twice this week, an experience that was shared by five million Israelis from Sderot to the Greater Tel Aviv area. As in any war, it is the civilians – particularly those in Southern Israel and Gaza – who are suffering the most.
Despite all this, I refuse to give in. As David Grossman said at this week's Israel Peace Conference, "despair is not a policy". This is especially true for NIF, SHATIL, and all our grantees. They are a bastion of sanity amidst the madness, and have responded immediately to the daunting challenges before us. They are setting the example that we all need to follow, and continue to call for peace and a shared society.
There is the Tag Meir Forum, who unequivocally called on people to mourn and not avenge at a rally in downtown Jerusalem, and brought hundreds of Israelis to extend their condolences to the Abu Khdeir family. There is also ACRI, who are working hard to monitor events around the country so that civil rights can be protected during the fighting. We know from bitter experience that, during times of military conflict, there is even greater likelihood of increased rights violations and confrontation between Jews and Arabs.
There is the Coalition against Racism, who are organizing a bus to take Jewish and Arab activists to visit Jewish and Arab towns with a message of reconciliation and shared society.
And there is SHATIL and NIF, who, alongside a number of others organizations, are working hard to help civil society deal with the upsurge in violence and racism and to help the people of the south – Jews, Bedouin, immigrants, and asylum seekers - deal with the rocket attacks and provide humanitarian aid when necessary. Sadly, over the past few years, our organizations have gathered a lot of experience in this area. One of the SHATIL branches is in Beer Sheva, which is currently under sustained threat from rocket fire. They sent the following messages to their activists this week: "We hope that there will be a solution to the conflict, that the cycle of violence will be broken, and that everyone will have the right to realize their potential and to live a peaceful life."
These are just a few examples of the work being done by hundreds of our activists and organizations. At a time when it would be easy to give in to the despair, to cut ourselves off and look out for our own, our grantees are working harder than ever to defeat racism and incitement, and to build a shared and just society for all Israelis. Earlier this week I was at Haaretz's Israel Peace Conference, which was partly sponsored by NIF and featured a number of NIF partners. Despite everything, thousands of people wanted to participate and exchange ideas about how to make peace a possibility.
Even during these difficult times, we're committed to this path, and we're inspired to have supporters like you walking with us. We are all wishing – and working – for better times.